Monday, September 26, 2005

Preventing Hurricanes

With the recent hurricanes here in 'Merica, the Discovery Network of channels (including the Science Channel) have been playing hurricane-related shows.

One show that I found fascinating was about how we can change weather.

For instance, over the midwest, they get super storms that produce large damaging hail. To help prevent this, they seed the clouds in two ways. First, silver iodide is dispursed into the updraft to give the water something to condense upon. Secondly, dry ice is dispursed above the clouds in order to promote snowfall within the cloud itself, which prevents the formation of hail.

This technique is particularly successful over land because the air is supersaturated with water. The government attempted the same techniques for hurricanes as part of Project Stormfury. However, this was not successful in altering the storms because hurricanes do not have a supersaturated air component, but rather, are continually provided moisture from evaporation of the body of water underneath.

The show went on to interview one scientist who claims that a hurricane can be interrupted by temporarily disrupting the evaporation of water in the storm's path, causing the storm to become disorganized and significantly weakened. They say that Benjamin Franklin realized that it would only take 1 teaspoon of olive oil to cover an entire lake with a film that was only 1-2 molecules thick, and such a film would affect the water's ability to evaporate (which is a cooling process).

This scientist was proposing that a film of something could be dispursed in the storm's path, and that film would only have to "survive" for maybe 6 hours or so--long enough for the storm to pass over it, cutting off the source of energy (evaporation).

I'm a little sceptical of this approach. First, because of the practicality of it all (perfectly dispursing a film of gunk over a wide enough area). Secondly, because evaporation is a cooling process, so if you stop evaporation, you are in essence making the body of water warmer. This might lead to more powerful storms (ignoring, of course, my previous rants about the effects of global warming on large-scale weather).

Being ever innovative™, I think that I've come up with a viable alternative. Disclaimer: I haven't seen this idea outlined before, so if you have invented this on your own, then my plagerism is not intentional.

Anyone who's gone snorkling or scuba diving knows how much colder the water is 20 feet down, let alone 100+ feet down. Why not deploy an array of buoys containing pumps to bring the cold water to the surface and then dispurse it?

This would not be a full-time operation (can you imagine the ecological consequences of keeping the Gulf of Mexico at a certain temperature?), but rather something that could be activated to hopefully disrupt a storm, and then deactivated until the next time it is needed.

The pumps could be powered by the wind, and backed up by Diesel engines or whatever would work best for the situation (that's an implementation detail determined as part of the Elaboration phase, whereas this blog post is only Big Sky Inception phase).